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Photos by Mike Ford
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GUNS N' ROSES at Sound Academy, Monday July, 15. Rating: NNN
As the Mark 7.0 lineup of Guns N' Roses shambled out on stage at the Sound Academy last night to the title track from 2008's Chinese Democracy, I wondered: "Really? Does anyone really care about Chinese Democracy? Are people even excited to hear this?" Then I realized I was singing along and, somehow, knew all the words.
This, I think, is part of the key to understanding why anyone would like Guns N' Roses, or even tolerate singer Axl Rose - the group's only remaining original member, and one of rock music's greatest ever egoists. These are things you like despite themselves, despite yourself. Because even when you consider all the sexism and homophobia and cheeseball L.A. hair band machismo, Guns N' Roses have - if you take into account Appetite For Destruction and both the Use Your Illusion albums, divided by themselves - released two of the finest rock records. And Axl Rose has, without a doubt, one of the best, most dynamic voices in all of rock, even if it was muddied by the Sound Academy's lousy acoustics. Love-hating Rose is the only way to really love him.
Backed by what looked like 20 sessions musicians - including three lead guitarists, ex-Replacements bassist Tommy Stinson, two synth/keyboardists and a drummer - Rose worked through a catalogue of Guns N' Roses classics, leaning as much on material from Chinese Democracy as fan favourites like Welcome To The Jungle, It's So Easy and Live And Let Die.
Seeing the band without Slash on guitar stills feel sort of wrong. But it's just not an option anymore. This is what Guns N' Roses is now: an Axl Rose roadshow, all cowboy hat changes and swinging metal chains, a hard rock karaoke box. It's weird and sort of sad. But if you're susceptible to this kind of thing, even if you know you shouldn't be, it's impossible not to sing along, to burn through widdly-widdly air guitar solos, to clap and smile and nod your head and pump your stupid fists. Even to the bad songs.